When God Says Wait

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Spoiler Alert: My new book, Holy Doubt: Finding Hope When Faith is a Struggle is available now on Amazon. If you or someone you know is struggling with God, this book will be a huge help along the sometimes dark and painful path through doubt. The digital version is only $0.99 until May 11th (find out more and snag a copy here).

Many of you started following this blog almost three years ago when I first began writing about some of my experiences with doubt and what I experienced as a missionary in India. I shared personal stories about the way God was working in my heart as I tried to process what I saw, felt, and heard during our four years in missions, and many of you shared your stories with me as well. I counted it an extreme privilege that my story connected with you in some small way, and I started to wonder if maybe God could use my story in other ways too.

So I kept blogging and started writing Holy Doubt with the intention of helping people like me who were struggling with doubt and shattered faith.

But the book was terrible.

There was a lot of “then this happened, and then this…,” and the manuscript turned into one long list of events. Ugh! Essentially, it was a poorly written memoir instead of the helpful guide for the dark journey through doubt and questions that I hoped it would be. It was about as interesting and useful as reading my grocery list. Not. Helpful.

So I rewrote it.

After that second rewrite, I submitted it to a national contest and Holy Doubtt was among the top 10 considered for a publishing deal with Tyndale Momentum. That time I thought, “This is it! This story is finally going to make its way out into the world.” But as the date for them to choose a winner got closer and closer, I didn’t feel excited. Instead, I hoped they wouldn’t pick me! Feeling terrified and overwhelmed by the thought of sharing the story with the world and the many ways I would feel exposed and vulnerable, I wished I’d never submitted it to the contest. I finally felt more confident in the manuscript, but I wasn’t ready to be an author.

As it turns out, I wasn’t ready and neither was the book!

So I rewrote it again.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that rejection was God’s way of saying “Wait!”

Somewhere in the middle of the third rewrite I realized God had replaced some of my pain with purpose, exchanged my mourning for joy, and hidden hope for me to find in the dark places. That’s when Holy Doubt finally became a story worth telling.

With each rewrite the meaning behind what I experienced sharpened and became clearer, until finally it became what I had hoped for all along—an easy-to-read guide for hurting people stumbling through the soul-crushing agony of doubt.

I don’t know what you’re facing right now. Maybe God is saying, “Wait!” and you just want to charge ahead, bulldozing every roadblock in your way. I know exactly how that feels.

But God has a beautiful story to tell with your life. It might not feel like it right now. But as someone who has sat where you are (and will likely be there again in the future), can I urge you to trust God’s timing? It made no sense to me back when I didn’t get that publishing deal, why God would ask me to wait, but years down the road, it makes perfect sense.

What is God wanting to rewrite in your life? Where is he wanting to replace sorrow with joy, despair for hope? While you contemplate your story, make sure to check out Holy Doubt on Amazon. I’m praying it will help you see the beauty in the story God is writing with your life.

Lies I Tell Myself

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Photo Credit: heytherejere via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a little word called justification lately. And not the good kind of justification where Jesus takes away our sins and makes us right in his eyes. The kind that whispers, “Well, it’s not so bad if I tell a little white lie. It’s harmless. I’m not really hurting anybody.” I’m talking about the excuses I make that let me take the easy way out and ignore the hard things that demand a higher standard in my life. That’s what my justifications are, excuses designed to allow me to do whatever I want to do which is usually completely out of line with what I know God wants from me.

What got me thinking about this, you might ask? I was recently confronted with the knowledge of something that caused my heart to grieve and I kept wondering, completely puzzled, “How could this person even think that what they’re doing is okay?” I just couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around it. I thought, surely they know better! And then I felt the Holy Spirit drop this word–the subject of this blog– justification into my heart. See, we can almost always come up with ways to justify our actions, even truly ugly ones, and the Holy Spirit reminded me that I do it all the time. Um, ouch!

When we were living in India as missionaries one of the things I justified, big-time, was my lack of compassion for people on the street. Whenever I felt a tiny nudge to reach out to a beggar I usually reasoned, “Well, I can’t make any sort of real difference. Since I can’t change everything, I should probably do nothing. This problem is just way too big for me. I don’t have the resources or the time to do anything significant.” Or at least that’s what I convinced myself was true. What I was really saying is, “I don’t want to do anything, stopping to help this person would be too inconvenient for me.” I’m ashamed to admit that the more I told myself those lies the more I believed them, until one day I found I could walk by people, dirty, destitute and broken, and not bat an eye.

1 John 3:16-17 (The Message) says: “This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why  we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

Justification allowed me to read that verse and say, “The number of people in need that I see on a daily basis is staggering, surely God doesn’t really mean this! I would drive myself crazy trying to live this out on the streets of India!” And just like that I could conveniently ignore it and dismiss it as too extreme and definitely too hard. I just want to say that is a scary place to live, picking and choosing the commands you want to follow, a place I no longer want to live in, and I’m sorry that I lived in it as long as I did. Truly sorry. I weep over the opportunities I missed, the people I could have helped, over the times that I made God’s love disappear in a place that desperately needed it to be tangible and visible. I truly hope you don’t relate to my story, but if you do, it’s not too late to change! Are you making excuses to justify disobedience? Ask God to help you change; he will!

Let me know what you think! Drop me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tears That Will Change the World

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Photo Credit: theirhistory via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: theirhistory via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Recently, midway through the ten hour drive home from our annual summer pilgrimage to Memphis, buns numb and legs aching to be anything but bent, I was devouring Shauna Niequist’s book Bread & Wine (if you’re not a fan of Shauna already I highly recommend her lovely, honest writing) when I stumbled on a phrase that got me thinking. On page 74 she says these words, “…tears are a guide…when something makes you cry, it means something. If we pay attention to our tears, they’ll show us something about ourselves.”

I don’t know if you’re like me (probably not, I’m pretty weird), but I don’t really enjoy crying. And I definitely don’t like for other people to see me cry. I know, I know, sometimes it’s therapeutic and you just need a good cry. But generally speaking, I just don’t like it. So I’ve spent years ignoring my tears, and I’ve certainly never allowed them to be a guide–using them to help me find my passion and calling. So this was a revolutionary concept indeed. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, Um, yes! How could I have been so dense all these years?

Back in 2009, when we were missionaries to India, a group of young adults came over on a short-term trip to work with us. While there, they visited a school that was located in a heart-rending slum and for many of the children the only food they received for the day was what they got at school. When the team arrived the well the school had been using had run dry and the children were going hungry because the staff couldn’t prepare their meals. Instantly, the team got together, each person gave, and they raised the money to dig a new well. That act of generosity still brings tears to my eyes.

I don’t like to think about children going hungry or a mother having to bury her child because she doesn’t have access to clean water. That makes me cry and it makes me angry.

A few days earlier on our trip my husband, Jonathan, and I had sat down with our two kids to present an opportunity. He had earned some money mowing lawns with his brother and we wanted to instill some principles of giving and generosity in the hearts of our kids. Eyes wide, they yelped when he said he wanted to give them each one hundred dollars. Their smiles flickered a little when he said, “But…this money is for you to give away, and we want you to pray about what God wants you to do with it.”

The next morning they came to us, wearing smiles as wide as stretched taffy, and said they wanted to start a family savings account to raise enough money to dig a well in Africa. That, my friends, brought tears to my eyes. 

What makes you cry? Have you thought about your tears being a guide before? Could they be leading you towards what God has uniquely gifted you to do? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Unexplained

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underground cisterns beneath the incredible city of Istanbul

underground cisterns beneath the incredible city of Istanbul

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

For those of you who have been following the “beauty in the brokenness” thread and have been left hanging all summer…sorry!!  I’m back now and the saga continues 🙂

If you can’t remember where we left off start here

Upon arrival in Turkey I was overwhelmed by how Western it felt.  To my surprise, they even drove on the same side of the road!  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it shattered all of my expectations, and was a much welcomed respite from our life in India.  It was gorgeous!  And the history!  And did I mention, it was gorgeous?  Oh, but I digress.  In case you can’t tell it’s one of my favorite places.

Almost from the moment we arrived, my children no longer had diarrhea and my daughter didn’t have any more of the frightening spells that terrified me beyond words.  After six long months of constantly battling mystery illnesses that no doctor could explain or treat all traces of their sicknesses ceased.  Seemingly overnight.  No explanation except the hand and goodness of God.  All I felt was an overwhelming sense of relief.  But little did we know we were about to be introduced to a new reality upon our return to India…

Living in Community

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 Photo Credit: davidwallace via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: davidwallace via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Community. It’s a word that’s tossed around a lot in the church and something, I believe, that each of us longs for. A place where we’re known and we belong. One of the things I loved and missed desperately about living in India was the community that surrounded us. Our family built relationships there that will last a lifetime. And while I was thrilled when we moved back home to the States, part of me was really missing our India friends and the level of relationship that we shared. We stayed in each other’s homes, shared meals, and were “aunts” and “uncles” to each other’s children. Life moved at a different pace, and no one was ever too busy to make time for some face-to-face interaction.

But that level of community didn’t just happen. Obviously, Jesus was at the center of all of those relationships, but thinking about it, two other ingredients were vital to creating that perfect blend of friendship and love that accepted each other’s flaws and lifted one another up when we were weak and tired: vulnerability and time.

The level of trust/vulnerability that I had with my friends in India was immeasurable. Our shared experiences created an instant bond between us that was difficult to put into words. But when our family came back home to the States I didn’t have that community anymore. Honestly, much of the reason why I didn’t experience that deep community (except with a few close friends) when we came back was because I wasn’t ready–and I was scared. Vulnerability can be scary (but also very rewarding). There was so much that had happened, and I had changed in ways that I couldn’t easily explain, that I was afraid of how people would respond, or if they would even understand. And I was still working through some things with Jesus, and I just wasn’t up to the commitment on a large scale. Because living in community definitely takes commitment. Which leads me to the next ingredient…time.

I could bemoan the fact that, in America, we’re too busy and life moves at a breakneck speed–but I’m not going to do that. Because, while that can be true, I know that we have the capacity to forge those same relationships even in the midst of busyness if we’re willing to make the effort. Our culture shock coming home involved realizing that everyone, ourselves included, had to schedule “hang-out” time, sometimes months in advance. There was very little room in anyone’s schedule for spontaneous get-togethers, but those were the times when we really got to know each other. Our family is moving into a new season of ministry where we will be diving in with our whole hearts and, hopefully :), living in strong community with some new friends. We are so excited just thinking about it!  My prayer for you is that you have that same experience wherever you live. It’s worth all of the time and vulnerability that’s required!

I’ve Never Seen That Before

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Photo Credit: calamur via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: calamur via Compfight cc

I wouldn’t say I ever got used to being gawked at like an animal at the zoo while we were living in India, but it happened far less when we moved to Delhi.  Outside of the village, in a city that’s home to thousands of expats, we were no longer a novelty that could potentially cause a ten rickshaw pile-up!

With that said, I had one of my funniest encounters with an ogler while we were living in the city.  On MG Road in Gurgaon there are several metal fabricators advertising their services from roadside stalls with simple white signs.  We had hired one of them to make three metal bed frames for us.  (Getting slightly off topic, the beds were lovely.  They looked just like some pictures that I had brought from an Ethan Allan catalog for FAR less money! *Sigh*)  Anyway, when the beds were finished they delivered them to our apartment.  That’s where things got interesting.

Jonathan, my husband, was not at home that particular day.  When the crew arrived, they scurried from room to room carrying metal pieces to each prospective bedroom and assembling them. Everything proceeded in a very professional manner until it was time for them to leave.  As I handed each worker a tip, one of the guys was clearly gobsmacked.  He walked backwards, a goofy grin on his lips, staring at me with each step, across my living room.  In fact, he was so oblivious to everything else that he didn’t even realize when he reached the front door, which had been left ajar by his exiting friends.  Somewhere near the entry, he finally spun his body towards the door but kept his face turned towards me.  The next thing I knew he walked straight into the side of the door that had been left open!  I’m pretty sure it left a mark–on his face, and his pride!  I had never seen anyone do that before in real life, and as I closed the door behind him I burst out laughing.  Pure entertainment!

Helpless

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Beautiful Turkey!

Beautiful Turkey!

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

The testing on our daughter’s ears didn’t reveal any problems.  So we steadily moved through a battery of testing, each test designed to eliminate yet another possibility.  Each more terrifying than the next, as all of the simple things were being eliminated.  We had x-rays, EEG’s (that’s what the picture from the last Missions post was), and at the end of it all we still had no answers.  While it was a relief that the tests didn’t reveal anything serious, it was unspeakably frustrating to experience these spells and wonder what could possibly be going on…

When we moved to the Delhi area I thought I was going to be able to breathe–catch my breath.  Wrong!  Almost from the first day in our new apartment both of our kids started having diarrhea from the wee morning hours until they went to bed at night.  This went on for six months.  Never. Missing. A. Day.  Between our daughter’s symptoms and both of the kids’ diarrhea it felt like we lived at the hospital or in the bathroom.  And we could never pinpoint the source of the diarrhea either.  Clearly, we were under attack, and my weapons were prayer and ampules of electrolytes!

As a parent, nothing gets to you like something happening to your child.  So to say I was stressed didn’t really scratch the surface.  My children were suffering and I couldn’t help them.  I was helpless, and it was not a good feeling.  A few days after our daughter’s EEG test we were scheduled to fly to Turkey for a conference.  With leaden hearts, and our eyes on the nearest bathrooms, we boarded the plane…